Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lenni Brenner says Ken's wrong

As a footnote to yesterday's post, below is a scan of two pages from the book Ken Livingstone claims is his source on Hitler and the Zionists.



Here's the money quote:
Throughout the period, the Nazis toyed with the Zionists as a cat would play with a mouse. Hitler never thought he was letting anyone get away from him because he was encouraging Jews to go to Palestine. If the Jews went to far-away America, he might never be able to get at them and they would always remain the foes of the German Empire in Europe. But if they went to Palestine instead? There , as a Gestapo agent told a Jewish leader, we will catch up with you ... 
Hitler's theories on Zionism, including the Jews' alleged inability to create a state, had all been there, in plain German, since 1926. The Zionists ignored the fact that Hitler hated all Jews, and that he specifically condemned their own ideology.
There's a lot in Brenner's book that is totally untrue, but that bit is true.

Here's the Jewish Socialist Group's David Rosenberg on Brenner's book:
the book was "badly written and with poor scholarship – a piece of tabloid journalism glued together with selective facts and lots of conjecture... There was evidence that some Zionists at the time did contact Nazi leaders, but there was a massive power imbalance. The Zionist movement was very small –and just a minority opinion amongst Jews.

To suggest there was some sort of symbiosis, or a belief that they really shared the same goal, is to distort history. The Nazis wanted to rid Germany of all of its Jews and Jews wanted to escape terror and oppression wherever they could reach. Zionist Jews wanted to go to Palestine.

Brenner's book tells the history as a simple goodies and baddies affair, uncluttered by nuance or contradiction, which tries to implicate Zionism and pretty much all Zionists in the Holocaust in order to make a simplistic point about Zionism/Israel/Palestine today.

In 1983, Brenner came to the UK to promote his book and Jewish Socialists' Group members invited him to speak about it. This was probably about the time that Ken came into contact with his ideas, but, Brenner failed to convince us of his assertions.


Further reading:

36 comments:

Boffy said...

All of that is no doubt true, but it doesn't really change the fact that as Wikipedia sets out the Nazis did negotiate with the German Zionist Organisation to bring about the deportation of Jews to Palestine. As the account there in relation to the Haavara Agreement says, the reason the Nazis were inclined to go down that route was to avoid the boycott of the German economy that was taking place across Europe in protest at their anti-Semitic actions.

I think Livingstone has made some pretty dubious comments, and been associated with some pretty dubious characters in the past, but so have many people involved in politics. Most of the British political establishment including many of those Labour MP's now kicking up a fuss, have associated themselves with one group of Islamists after another, for example, in Iraq, Libya and Syria to achieve their short term aims of overthrowing existing bonapartist regimes, and sections of the liberal-interventionist left have aided them and abetted them in such a strategy. In fact, the support they have given for those forces has probably been the one factor that ultimately poses the greatest threat to Jews in Israel and everywhere else, as a result of the growth of ISIS, and other Islamist groups.

So, everyone can be guilty of bad politics, or not thinking through the longer term consequences of short term political positions, of trying to operate on the basis of "practical politics", which sees every event as a discrete event separated from everything else that is going on around it, and how it affects everything else. But, if we are to not make a distinction between someone making mistakes that flow from their bad methodology and those who begin with bad intent, its no wonder that the Left is riven with such visceral hatred of anyone within its midst who they disagree with.

As far as I can see nothing that Livingstone said was actually overtly racist, and even the AWL given their personal hostility to Livingstone going back to the days of SO in the 1980's, do not accuse Livingstone of overt anti-semitism. The implications of calling for the state of Israel to be demolished are anti-Semitic if you think them through rationally, but equally the implications of calling for immigration controls, import controls or nationalisation are racist when thought through rationally, so would we then brand everyone who calls for or who has called for any of those things to be branded a racist, and thrown out of the labour movement?

bob said...

There is, as one of the links above puts it, a twisted kernel of truth in Ken's comment, relating to the Ha'avara Agreement. But, as even Brenner emphasises, the Agreement does not actually substantiate Ken's main point, that "Hitler supported Zionism", nor does it mitigate the offensiveness in the "before [Hitler] went mad" part of the comment.

I'm not arguing - I don't think anyone is arguing - that Livingstone is the most evil person ever. The whataboutery of what other politicians have done is irrelevant. When someone in UKIP says something racist, we don't say "other politicians say faucet things" do we? When Bkair cozies up to a corrupt Central Asian autocrat or Cameron to the Saudis, the left doesn't say "all politicians have dubious friends". We should take the issue on its own merits and make a judgement without recourse to whataboutery.

I don't really understand the point on left interventionism. Are you saying the FSA represent the greater danger in the Middle East?

bob said...

I also think (and I've argued this lots of times on this blog) that the question of racist intent is largely irrelevant to the question of determining racism. Support for deporting migrants may not have racist intent behind it but it is racist in effect. Similarly, I don't think we need to examine Ken's soul (though a pattern of offensive comments about Jews might emerge if we did) to make a decision about whether this was a racist act or racist discourse.

Boffy said...

Bob,

I'm not sure, how the Wikipedia account of the Haavara Agreement represents any kind of "twisted" kernel of truth, as Matgamna's earlier comment suggests. In fact, I may have missed it in the tsunami of words contained in Matgamna's piece, but I didn't see it actually refer to the Haavara Agreement as such but only to vague references to such pieces of history which were linked to other actual historical distortions such as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which itself is a method rather reminiscent to the old Stalinist tactic of the amalgam.

And, as Ken also, inaccurately, stated, and as the BBC website states,

“Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu provoked widespread criticism in October when he said a Palestinian leader persuaded the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust.

Mr Netanyahu insisted Adolf Hitler had only wanted to expel Jews from Europe, but that Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini had told him: "Burn them."

Netanyahu had his own reason, for making this statement, which depicts Muslims as worse than Nazis, but it begs the question of why the Prime Minister of Israel can accept the historical record in that regard, whilst a variety of British politicians for various reasons cannot.

As for whether this substantiates Livingstone's "point" that Hitler supported Zionism I think it comes down to a question of intent in the words being used. Livingstone was speaking in a live radio interview. He was not giving a pre-prepared academic lecture from a written text. If he had been, or if Livingstone was delivering a written paper in which he had clearly stated "Hitler supported Zionism" that would be a different matter. It would still be open to debate as to what basis such an opinion was derived from, was it just bad history, or did it flow from an underlying anti-semitism, that was prepared to knowingly distort history.

I think the same applies to the "Before Hitler went bad statement." Nowhere in the radio interview as far as I can see, does Livingstone give any other impression than that he thought Hitler and the Nazis were a bunch of anti-semitic, murdering bigots. The question here is about how that was carried out in reality, and how the question of deportation and so on was used by the Nazis, before they arrived at "The Final Solution".

Boffy said...

Cont'd

In referring to the fact that many politicians can be accused of some kind of association with dubious characters I was not engaging in whataboutery, I was arguing against the concept of guilt by association. I was indeed making the point that we should judge ach case on its merits.

"Are you saying the FSA represent the greater danger in the Middle East?"

I'm saying that the US armed and financed Bin Laden and the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, they created Al Qaeda, which the CIA were also happy to use via Bin Laden, to develop the KLA in Serbia, which then undertook murderous attacks on Kosovan Serbs to create ethnic violence and division in that country. In the same way, the overthrow of Saddam led to the situation of the rise of Islamists in Iraq; the support of Islamists in Libya, the support given by the US and EU to the Gulf States in their intervention in Libya, led to it descending into inevitable chaos, and the filling of the gap by Islamists, whether ISIS or others, and the funding and support again through the Gulf monarchies, and training by the CIA of those same Islamist groups in Syria has led to the growth of ISIS there.

The issue of the FSA is a non-starter, because even the Tories like Julian Lewis recognise that Cameron's claims about their being 10,000 "moderate" fighters for the FSA and so on, are a fiction.

You are right that its possible to distinguish between whether a comment is racist, and whether the person who makes it is a racist. In a blog post on this recently, I made a similar comparison between the fact that someone may be drunk, but it does not make the a drunk, or someone may commit a criminal act but it does not make them a criminal, i.e. being perpetually drunk, or committing criminal acts is not a permanent feature of their behaviour.

But, if you are going to make such a distinction, as I think you should, because otherwise you would have to label every supporter of immigration controls, import controls or nationalisation as a racist, you then do have to take into consideration the question of intent. Does the person who advocates immigration controls, or import controls, or nationalisation seek to blame foreigners for the plight of British capital, and to make foreigners pay that price, or are they simply mistaken in their view of how an immediate economic problem should be addressed, which in doing so has the implicit effect of blaming foreigners for that problem, and thereby places the cost of resolving it on them, by these measures.

Similarly, in relation to Livingstone I think the question is does he hate Jews in general. In relation to Israel, does he actually want to see the death of millions of Israeli Jews, or is he happy to see that happen, as a price worth paying, to dismantle the existing state.

If that is the case, then he is an anti-Semite. But has anyone shown that those statements actually apply to him?

Boffy said...

Bob,

In the context of "whataboutery" how about this example from Sean Matgamna in his own apologia for the adoption of the kind of "annexationism" that Lenin was strident in opposing.

"They present the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948 as unique and uniquely evil. They ignore the 600,000 Jews displaced from the Arab countries to Israel in the late 40s and after. They ignore such things as the displacement of 13 million ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe (10 million from what is now western Poland). They ignore the role of Arab states in denying the Palestinian refugees and their descendants the right to work and integrate – in keeping the refugees and their descendants refugees."

Lenin wrote that Marxists cannot support annexations,because

"In our view the answer is obvious: because annexation violates the self-determination of nations, or, in other words, is a form of national oppression."

The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up

Moreover, they do not support the establishment of new bourgeois states except in the most exceptional conditions. Supporting, the creation of a new bourgeois state of Israel might be an exceptional condition between 1933 and 1945, but in 1948? After all, in 1948, most of western Europe was under the domination of the Allies who claimed that they had just fought a war to liberate the continent from fascism and anti-semitism! Was it these very Allies that posed an existential threat to Jews?

But, Matgamna here engages in the very same whataboutery that the idiot-anti imperialists and proponents of the destruction of Israel engage in. His comments here basically say, we can ignore the annexation of Palestinian lands, we can ignore the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians, and the consequent deaths of Palestinians arising from that, because you see, there were all the other people doing bad things too, both to Palestinians and to Jews!

Cont'd

Boffy said...

Cont'd

The Zionist project to create the state of Israel in Palestine was a reactionary project, as all such colonial and annexationist projects are. Those who proposed it, and fought for it, were not necessarily racist, but precisely because it could not be accomplished without displacing the indigenous Arab population from their homes and lands, it was implicitly racist, and in its execution explicitly racist, because it carried out that project without any regard for the interests of those indigenous peoples. A comparison could be made with the ideology of Manifest Destiny by which European settlers in North America considered it their inherent right and destiny to occupy all of North America from coast to coast, sweeping away the indigenous Native Americans via a policy of genocide and deportation to reservations.

But, Marxists as I have argued elsewhere are not moral guardians of history, though some who claim to be Marxists on both sides of this debate seem to consider that is their role, leaving some to line up with reactionary Islamists and others to line up with imperialism to achieve those moral imperatives that drive them apparently above th drive for working class unity and a struggle for socialism.

The state of Israel as much as the United States is an accomplished fact, and any attempt to dismantle either of those states would now be a grossly reactionary measure. Our task is to take the world as we find it and try to build working class unity across borders not for the achievement of bourgeois democratic demands, but for socialism. As it happens, I also believe, as I have for more than 30 years, that the attempt to create a new bourgeois Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution is both utopian and for that reason ultimately reactionary, and everything that has happened in the last thirty years has only strengthened my belief that that is the case. It is why instead I favour a struggle for democratic rights for Arabs within Israel, and for the creation of a federal republic of Israel and Palestine across the hole territory of Palestine and the current state of Israel, as part of a struggle for a wider socialist federation of the Middle East and North Africa.

bob said...

Been out and about all day so this, for now, is just a response to Boffy's earlier comments.

The Ha'avara agreement - which ken may or may not have actually referring to in his comments; it might just be that his followers have fixed on that as some post hoc justification – says nothing about "Hitler supporting Zionism"; it tells us nothing more than that his government did a deal with some Zionists. What the deal means requires interpretation. Brenner supplies one interpretation here, which I think contradicts Ken's.

Sure, KL was rambling off the cuff not giving a written talk. However, and this is crucial, he's since doubled down, refusing to acknowledge that he wasn't 100% right. (And he's even claimed Brenner "vindicates" him, while his apologists say the Wikipedia article "vindicates" him.) Contrast Naz Shah's thorough and meaningful self-scrutiny and gracious apology.

On the issue of intent, I've obviously explained myself badly as I mean almost the opposite of what you thought. I don't mean Ken is "an antisemite" without antisemitic intent. He mean he may have said antisemitic things without being "an antisemite". I think we need to reserve that phrase for ideologically antisemites, those with a committed antisemitic worldview. I don't think KL is one of them, and not are most of the characters in this drama (although Ian Donovan, for example, is).

vildechaye said...

Boffy: He's a Jew-baiter, and hance an anti-semite, because he enjoys sticking it to the Jews by always going "Hitler" or "Nazi" or "concentration camp guard" in situations when there's no other reason to bring Nazis, or Hitler etc. into it. For example, his current statements about Hitler/Zionism had no point other than that; they certainly weren't made to defend Naz Shah, who hadn't mentioned Hitler or Nazis. Again, the only reason people mention Hitler/Nazis in relation to Israel is to bait Jews, pure and simple. Get that through your thick head.

Boffy said...

Bob,

Thanks for your reply. Let's be clear. My intention is not to defend Livingstone, or Naz Shah, or Malia Bouattia. On the contrary, I think that the general mindset of "idiot anti-imperialism", has created, over the last thirty years, the conditions under which a Left-wing anti-Semitism, also arises. I have spent a lot of time over that period arguing against both idiot anti-imperialism and left-wing anti-Semitism. My concern here is to actually have this debate on a rational basis, that relies on the ability to discuss actual history honestly. Otherwise, we end up once again with a mirror image here of the things that the idiot anti-imperialists have been guilty of in the past. In the past that meant that discussion was closed down, by simply saying that some particular point or argument was racist, Islamophobic etc. Now, we are moving to a situation where people are afraid to speak for fear of being accused of being anti-Semitic. Its an extension of the closing down of debate that has been seen in the student movement with various people being no platformed and so on.

So, I certainly was not raising the Haavara Agreement as some post hoc justification of Livingstone. I have been aware of this history for a long time. Whatever the interpretation of the Haavara Agreement, the fact is that it existed, and so the accusations by John Mann and others that Livingstone was a "Nazi apologist" for having dared refer to it, have to be viewed in the light of what has been said above, that these attacks are an attempt to close down debate and discussion. But, what is more, is that it is clear that they are part of a concerted attack on Corbyn, not because he is "anti-Semitic", only the most swivel eyed are claiming that, but simply because the Blair-rights have been casting around for some grounds on which to attack him, to torpedo this week's elections, and thereby to provide the justification for a palace coup, which even the Tory media are now fairly openly admitting.

The idea that responsibility for this row is down to Livingstone is rather silly, because it started, and was clearly planned long before, at least from the attacks on Bouattia. That was carried forward on to the attacks on Naz Shah, not for something she has said recently, but for comments said on social media two years ago, that someone only now has taken the trouble to dig out.

We should oppose left-wing anti-Semitism as much as any other anti-Semitism or racism, but we should also do so honestly, and recognise that at the moment it is also being used by political opponents of the Left. Doing so honestly also requires that those on the Left who seem to consider that they can only defend the right of Israel to exist today (a right as I said above I also defend) is by defending the reactionary act that was the creation of Israel in the first place, and the denial of the right of self-determination for Palestinians that implied, the brutal consequences for Palestinians at that time, and thereby to act as apologists for that reactionary policy.

Boffy said...

Just an addenda as I never know when the comments limit is hit. I think the point above Naz Shah, is illustrative of the point made above. She engaged in "meaningful self-scrutiny and gracious apology", you say. So did, Bukharin and others in the Moscow show trials. I've looked at what she said in those social media posts, and especially given that the one with the map was not even intended to be taken seriously, I'm still trying to see exactly what was explicitly anti-Semitic, as opposed to anti-Israel in them.

Zionists themselves before the creation of israel looked for potential sites for a homeland, including in the US. They considered a proposal from Britain for a homeland in what is now Kenya, at the start of the 20th century, and notably turned it down on the basis of potential hostility from the existing inhabitants of the territory, and so on. In itself, putting forward the idea of some new homeland to resolve a decades long conflict is not anti-Semitic, any more than proposing a voluntary relocation of Falkland Islanders would be racist towards them. Its the intent, and the rational conclusion of the proposal, i.e. is it to be achieved over the bones of the particular people that makes it racist/anti-Semitic. For example, the forcible relocation of Chagos Islanders by the Wilson and Heath governments was definitely racist.

The same with the comment about Hitler by Shah, that Livingstone was asked about and was defending - so he didn't simply rush to bring Hitler into the discussion as has been suggested. Every Politics student is familiar with the concept of the tyranny of democracy, whereby democratically elected governments, or democratic decisions by majorities can be tyrannical towards minorities. As I saw Shah's comment, she was making that point that Hitler was the constitutionally appointed Chancellor of Germany, the Nazis had won a plurality of seats in the Reichstag, the laws they passed went through the democratic process. I'm pretty sure that the same could be said about the US policy of putting ethnic Japanese citizens into concentration camps during WWII. So, the comparison being made was that just because the Israeli government is democratically elected, and passes laws constitutionally to bomb and shell Palestinian men, women and children does not make them defensible.

That Shah has found herself forced to retract seems to me an example of the intimidation that can then close down rational debate. Livingstone has apologised for the fact that his words may have caused offence, but if he believes that what he said was historically accurate, why should he apologise for stating a matter of historical fact. That surely would be politically dishonest.

Boffy said...

One final comment, because I have too many other things to do to continue this discussion. A lot of the discussion has been about Livingstone's comments "causing offence". Well, nearly ten years ago, when I was still allowed to make comments on the AWL website, and indeed when I was writing a blog there, I spend a lot of time defending the AWL's position, and decision to post the Danish Cartoons.

There was a lot of discussion at that time too about causing offence to Muslims by posting those cartoons. I think the position that I defended, and that the AWL and others adopted at that time was correct, which is that free speech only means anything if it means the right to say things that someone else might take offence at. Just because someone might take offence at the cartoons, or drawing comparisons between the actions of one group with some other pariah group, does not make them racist, sexist, or whatever, not can it remove the right to free speech.

Once again there seems to be a lack of consistency of approach, and a tendency to pick up an argument that suits and can be used for one discrete event, only to perform a logical somersault, and a zig-zag in position, and then drop that argument because it does not support the conclusion desired in the enxt discrete event.

The Contentious Centrist said...

The "offence" in Livingstone's fulmination was not about the hurt feelings of the Jews but about the distortion of truth. To listen to his words, one who is not much knowledgeable about history would come away with the clear understanding that there was a meeting of minds between the Nazis and the Zionists. This suggests that Jews enjoyed Hitler's sympathy for their plight, that he was a benefactor for Zionists. Livingstone's formulation did not try to exonerate Hitler's crimes but rather the contrary: to tar, taint, smear, besmirch Zionist Jews as Hitler's acolytes. He used Hitler's evil reputation in order to create an alliance between that evil and Zionism, to make the point that Zionists were unscrupulous agents of .. who? What, exactly?

This is another ploy to present the history of Israel's creation as associating and collaborating with pure evil.


When you ignore Livingstone's intent you do violence to his message which he keeps claiming is the truth, and does not regret.

I don't understand the need of anybody to spend so much time and words trying to cleanse what cannot be cleansed.

Boffy said...

I don't think that is contained in what Livingstone said. What I would agree with is that Livingstone like many of the left see only the reactionary basis on which Israel was established, and are unable to get beyond it, in terms of navigating a current political solution. It is essentially a politics of moral outrage.

But, its also necessary for those who defend the right of Israel to exist, and who as I do point to the reactionary consequences of trying to argue for it to be dismantled, to also recognise that the establishment of the state of Israel WAS a reactionary act. It DID necessarily mean a denial of the right of self-determination for all of those Palestinians already living there; it DID mean a series of genocidal attacks on those Palestinians to force them off their lands.

And, it is also necessary to recognise that many of the leaders of the Zionist movement at that time, who later became prominent Israeli politicians and prime ministers were thoroughly reactionary and WERE prepared to form an alliance with both the Nazis and with Mussolini to achieve their ends.

Take the Stern Gang, for instance. As Wikipedia states, it

"... initially sought an alliance with Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany, offering to fight alongside them against the British in return for the transfer of all Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe to Palestine. Believing that Nazi Germany was a lesser enemy of the Jews than Britain, Lehi twice attempted to form an alliance with the Nazis. During World War II it declared that it would establish a Jewish state based upon "nationalist and totalitarian principles". After Stern's death in 1942, the new leadership of Lehi began to move it towards support for Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. In 1944 Lehi officially declared its support for National Bolshevism."

This is the organisation of which Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir was the leader. In 1980, Israel established a military decoration called the Lehi Ribbon named after the gang, and in praise of its activities. Those who wish to live in the present, and defend the right of Israel to exist, on the basis that a forcible destruction of it would be a terrible and reactionary event, and who want to move forward on the basis of a progressive socialist solution that unites both Jewish and Arab workers, also have to admit the truth of the past, and also admit the truth of the basis of the continued oppression of Palestinians as being the desire to maintain a confessional state.

bob said...

Coming really late to this comment thread. A few things:

1. Matgamna's article is a decade old, so is not replying to Ken's new comments. Matgamna never says "ignore" Israel's annexations. AWL is critical of them. He is simply saying these annexations are not exceptional; they are part of the history of more or less every nation-state. Boffy's comparison to the US as an implicitly racist settler state is exactly right: criticisms of Israel apply to Canada, New Zealand and ultimately more or less everywhere given the wars and occupations required to create our current patchwork of nation-states.

2. The Netanyahu thing: I don't get how that defends Ken. At the time I thought (and tweeted) that Netanyahu was wrong and stupid, and many pro-Israel folks and historians said the same. What Netanyahu said, though, is almost the opposite of what Ken said: that the Hitler supported Palestinian nationalism, and that the latter was in fact central to Hitler's final solution. Is Ken saying this was the "when Hitler went mad" moment? It's nonsense, because Hitler's intent was genocidal far earlier, e.g. in Mein Kampf, and his expulsion policy was only ever lukewarm precisely because he saw the Jews as a global not national threat.

3. Vildechaye, please don't use such uncivil language. Thanks.

4. The Ha'avara Agreement: yes, this was a fact, but there is a huge amount of wiggle room in how we interpret it. Was it a way of busting the Jewish boycott and extorting money from richer would-be emigrants - or was it "supporting Zionism"? I think it's clear it was the former; it is the "supporting Zionism" interpretation (exacerbated by the "before he went mad" comment) that made Mann say Ken was a Hitler apologist.

That's enough for now, but probably more later!

The Contentious Centrist said...


"But, its also necessary for those who defend the right of Israel to exist, and who as I do point to the reactionary consequences of trying to argue for it to be dismantled, to also recognise that the establishment of the state of Israel WAS a reactionary act. It DID necessarily mean a denial of the right of self-determination for all of those Palestinians already living there; it DID mean a series of genocidal attacks on those Palestinians to force them off their lands."

Indeed. In order to get some decent, historically-accurate observations from political leaders Israel's advocates should first of all accept that the slanderous of those unscrupulous leaders are based on some irrefutable "moral truth" that exists in their fantasy.

Boffy's arguments strongly remind me of the medieval Christian ethos with regards to the terms for Jewish existence:

The Jews are witness to the crucifixion. As witnesses they must be allowed to exist but Christians must never forget that the Jews murdered our savior and therefore Jews must not be allowed to prosper and thrive.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"Vildechaye, please don't use such uncivil language. Thanks."

I agree. Pointing out the obvious is utterly futile, and inconsiderate to the blog's host.

And let's also not forget the #1 rule: Jews must always, always be on their best behavior.

Boffy said...

Bob,

I treat all those who use uncivil language, or defend its use as trolls, especially where it is their first resort. In other words, I simply ignore whatever they have to say. So, turning to the civil and rational points you make I will try to respond briefly, because I have too many things to do at the moment.

Firstly, I referred to Matgamna's posts because both you and Jim Denham had cited them as responses to what Livingstone had said. You say,

"Matgamna never says "ignore" Israel's annexations. AWL is critical of them. He is simply saying these annexations are not exceptional; they are part of the history of more or less every nation-state."

But, I don't think that this is JUST what Matgamna and the AWL say. Matgamna has said on several occasions not just that he defends the right of Israel to exist, as I do, but that he is a Zionist, and I think that cuts to the heart of this debate. When I was still allowed to comment on the AWL website, I wrote some brief responses to the article they posted supporting the position of Al Glotzer, which defended the Zionist policy of establishing the state of Israel, and which thereby defended the denial of the right of self-determination of Palestinians etc.

Now, it is a totally different matter to say that the state of Israel exists, and that attempts to turn the clock back, by destroying that state, would be a terrible reactionary act, and on the other to support, at the time the creation of that state on the basis it was established, and by the means that it was established! The latter is as bad as, and merely a mirror image of the former, and that is typical of the politics of the AWL and of the Third Camp in general. It is a subjectivist, rather than Marxist politics, driven by moral outrage and a desire to fulfil some categorical moral imperative, i.e. Kantianism.

So, on many occasions we see that resulting in the Third Campists of the SWP taking one moral position "idiot ant-imperialism", whilst the Third Campists of the AWL take the opposite position of being supporters of "democratic imperialism". Both position stem from a feeling of powerlessness, a lack of faith in the working-class to achieve progress on its own terms, and so a reliance on other more powerful forces to achieve the moral objectives of the particular organisation.

For the SWP, and others who think like them, the moral imperative is "anti-imperialism", and more generally "anti-Camitalism", and with no faith in the working class being able to achieve that, they turn to various reactionary Islamist groups, and states, or they turn to Putin and so on. For the AWL, the moral imperative as it was for Shachtman/Burnham is opposition to anti-democratic forces, such as Stalinism, Islamism and so on, and again having no faith in the working-class they instead place their faith in "democratic imperialism" to achieve that moral goal, by it for example, invading Vietnam and attempting to bomb the population back to the stone age, or its similar acquiesence in such activities in Serbia, Iraq, Libya, and until it became obvious it would have the same disastrous consequences, in Syria too.

Cont'd

Boffy said...

Cont'd

And, in fact, the ridiculous nature of that in the case of the AWL, was that in hitching their horse to this "democratic imperialism", they too like the SWP end up hitching their wagon to the same kind of reactionary Islamist forces as the SWP, where those forces are the allies of "democratic imperialism." So, for example, in Iraq, they apologised for people like Sistani; in Libya they ridiculously claimed that the intervention of the feudal gulf monarchies special forces was the way bourgeois democracy was going to be spread in the Middle East; when everyone around knew that the so called "rebels" were a bunch of reactionary Islamists, and that the Libyan National Council was an illusion, the AWL presented them as the vehicle for a democratic Libya, and Matgamna apologised for their reactionary Islamist politics in exactly the same terms that the SWP defended Hizbollah; similarly, for months the AWL tried to deny that there was anything nasty going on in Libya, as the Islamists began a spree of murdering black workers and so on.

So no, I do not accept that Matgamna and the AWL do not ignore the basis upon which the Israeli State was established. They support its establishment, rather than just opposing its forcible destruction. And, in fact in justifying the creation of Israel in their article on Glotzer they do argue that the position of Jews was Special, because of the Holocaust. When I responded to their article, the AWL as they do with most comments that criticise their positions, deleted my comments. My actual comments can be found on my blog, in these series of posts - Glotzer and the Jews as Special, Glotzer and Immigration, and Glotzer, Anti-Semitism and the degenerated Workers State.

Boffy said...

As for Netanyahu's comment, as I said I am not defending Livingstone, and referring to it was not intended to do so. But, I think that there is also a danger of simply taking Mann's rant at face value as being an honest criticism of Livingstone, rather than what it was and is, which is a cynical piece of theatre that plays into the narrative and strategy of the Blair-rights over recent months, as part of the attempt to remove Corbyn, by driving a wedge between him and those around him, and by continually feeding a media frenzy of attacks on him that must be fought off rather than allowing any positive message to feed through.

I don't take Livingstone's words to mean anything more than that objectively, in so far as the Haavara Agreement was concerned it supported the aims of Zionism, by providing and encouraging Jews to relocate to Palestine. As someone else pointed out, or maybe it was you in another posit, I can't remember, in terms of actually supporting Zionism, Mussolini is probably a better example, because Mussolini had rich Jews in his government, and as supporters, until Hitler told him to remove them.

But, surely the point here is not about did Hitler/Nazis actively support Zionism, or did they just use this agreement for their short term benefit, but is whether it is true that the Nazis and Zionists did make such agreements, as Livingstone stated, and as Mann and others have suggested is historically untrue and beyond the pale even referring to? The fact is that those agreements did exist, and it was not just the Nazis who sought them, but also the Nazis as the quote about the policy of the Stern Gang, demonstrates. The Stern Gang not only sought an alliance with the Nazis and Mussolini because they thought that they were a lesser evil compared to Britain, but also based their ideological model on what they wanted a future state of Israel to be like on that same kind of National Socialism, or National Bolshevism.

FalconMalteser said...

Really interesting exchange guys. I agree with Bob.

The Contentious Centrist said...

BTW, The Holocaust was not the reason Israel was established. It served as a catalyst of sorts to accelerate its establishment, mainly because Europe and the US didn't know what to do with 1M Jewish refugees. But Israel would have come into being anyway. Israel was a de-facto functioning mini state anytime during the 1930's. If you read the 1937 Peel Commission report you will know that.

Having said that, let me look at it from another angle: The Holocaust, actually, served the interests of the Arabs of Mandatory Palestine.

Arabs' rejection of the Peel Commission plea for partition in 1937 yielded favourable fruits for them: 6 millions Jews exterminated and none who would ever be able to set foot in the land of their ancestors.

Imagine Arab rage when it turned out that the Jews, far from being a broken up, intimidated and traumatized people, turned out to have the stamina, the will, the intelligence, to build a state where other Jews could now find refuge and no longer need be the supplicants for a right given freely to anyone else: the right for a free, decent, and dignified life in their own country.

WestEndGirl said...

Good Lord, I have never seen such disingenuous guff from one writer. Just reams and reams of disingenuous and offensive guff. Getting to the heart of it:

"which defended the Zionist policy of establishing the state of Israel, and which thereby defended the denial of the right of self-determination of Palestinians etc'

It is absolutely not true that creation of the state of Israel necessarily denied the self-determination of Palestinians. This is only true if the self-determination of Palestinians necessarily could not allow any form of Jewish self-determination, whether as a federated state, cantons or otherwise. There are numerous states in the region created in the fallout from WW1 and it is ridiculous in the extreme to state that Zionism is particularly unusual.

Lots of tribes/clans/nations ended up on the wrong side of various borders, it's what happens when true imperial power is visited upon a region. Moreover, this is not even calling into question what notion of the Palestinians we are talking about, given the population was and is a patchwork of Sunni Muslim, Druze, Christian, Circassian, Samaritan etc and etc). The fact that there was a rise in Sunni Political Islam such as the Muslim Brotherhood is far more of a factor in the failure to come to any form of settlement than Zionism precludes 'Palestinian' self-determination. Palestinian self-determination was shaped by wider political movements, up to and including assassinating Arab leaders who urged positive accommodation in the 1920s. As always, anti-Zionists treat Arabs with Orientalist disdain for the idea that they had/have agency.

The Contentious Centrist said...

"First, Hitler despised Zionism. In fact he ridiculed the idea as he was convinced that the Jews would be incapable of establishing and then defending a state. More importantly, he and his government viewed the prospect of a Jewish state in Palestine as part of the broader international Jewish conspiracy which his fevered imagination presented as a dire threat to Germany. While (after robbing them of most of their possessions) the Nazis did allow some German Jews to leave the country in the 1930s in order to travel to Palestine, that policy was primarily driven by a desire to get the Jews out of Germany rather than to build a Jewish state in Palestine. By the late 1930s the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who later collaborated with the Nazis in wartime Berlin, had informed German diplomats stationed in Jerusalem that the entry of Jews into Palestine from Germany was angering local Arabs. For reasons of their own, the Nazis cut off Jewish emigration in 1941 to pursue their goal of murdering Europe’s Jews. This ignorance about the implications of the Holocaust is stunning. As the Israeli historian Anita Shapira has pointed out, it is only a half-truth to say that Israel was founded because of the Holocaust. The other half of the truth is that literally millions of Jews in Europe who might have contributed to the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine could not do so because the Nazis had murdered them. The Holocaust itself was an enormous blow to the Zionist project."

http://fathomjournal.org/hitler-and-the-nazis-anti-zionism-2/

To repeat:

"As the Israeli historian Anita Shapira has pointed out... literally millions of Jews in Europe who might have contributed to the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine could not do so because the Nazis had murdered them. The Holocaust itself was an enormous blow to the Zionist project."

And, by the Marxist zero-sum principle -that when someone is poor,it's because someone else is rich- then the only conclusion is that the unrecoverable loss for the Jews was pure gain for Palestinians.

Who, in 1947, benefited best from the Holocaust? Who decided to act on that benefit and try to eliminate the 600K Jews in Mandatory Palestine? How come Palestinians grew from 1.2M in 1946 to 10.5M in 2005? How come Jews who were 15.4M in 1933 will barely reach 13.5M in 2020, 90 years later?

There comes a moment when even the Boffies of this world will have to deal with these numbers and their meaning, being so morally outraged and everything. (And if I weren't in mortal dread of Bob rebuking me for using uncivil language, I would have said "schmucks like boffy").



The Contentious Centrist said...

More from Howard Jacobson:

"Maybe there was an alternative to Zionism for Jews when once-friendly countries turned hostile and other nations closed their borders, but no one found it."

"Zionism is not and never was an ideology of oppression; Zionism came into being as an expression of Jewish fear and aspiration, a longing for renewal and self-determination occasioned by waves of violence against Jews all over Europe and made increasingly urgent as those fears were given a terrible materiality by the Nazis.

Whoever minimises the threat Jews faced 100 years ago, 50 years ago, and still face today, flirts with the discourse of antisemitism. Whoever accuses Jews of making capital out of adversity paves the way for antisemitism. And whoever describes Zionism as the imposition of Jewish exclusivism and supremacy is an antisemite."

http://www.thejc.com/comment-and-debate/comment/157796/thanks-showing-your-hand-ken

Boffy said...

Bob,

As an indication of the kind of trajectory I feared could occur, its becoming apparent that any attempt at rational debate is facing attempts to close it down with any views other than those which defend Zionism, and the basis upon which the state of Israel was established over the bones of Palestinians being described as disingenuous or offensive and so on, and the usual trolling resort to abuse in place of argument.

But, I also see that on the same basis, of trying to close down debate other than on those terms, even David Feldman, from the Pear's Institute for the Study of Ant-Semitism, who has been appointed alongside Sham Chakrobarty to head up the report into racism and anti-semitism is not Zionist enough. He is now apparently being attacked himself as potentially anti-semitic for having even suggested that some of the accusations made were a bit flimsy, and politically motivated, and that it is not necessarily anti-semitic to draw parallels between the actions of the Israeli State and other oppressive states, including the Nazis.

Memories of Joe McCarthy or Beria anyone?

The Contentious Centrist said...

Boffy complains he is a victim of Zionist McCarthyism.

His Proof: His view that "Israel was established over the bones of Palestinians" is opposed by actual numbers, such as these:

Palestinians grew from 1.2M in 1946 to 10.5M in 2005

Jews who were 15.4M in 1933 will barely reach 13.5M in 2020, 90 years later

More numbers:

In 1948 Arab-Israel war: Size of armies engaged:

On the Arab side: 660,000
On the Jewish side: 140,000

Killed:

On the Arab side: 4,000
On the Jewish side: 6,373

Additional numbers here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947%E2%80%9348_Civil_War_in_Mandatory_Palestine#Death_toll

This is true McCarthyism, countering slanderous fantasies with actual facts.


Migreli said...

"...The Holocaust itself was an enormous blow to the Zionist project..."

Herzl's premonition of the enormous danger facing the Jews in Europe should be compared to the inability of most other political leaders to foresee what was to come. It is becoming clearer as time passes that the enormous blow that the Jewish people suffered has weakened us so much that our struggle to maintain our life as a sovereign people is as desperate and precarious as ever. And the cacophany of jeering and abuse from our enemies and detractors that accompanies that struggle is increasing rather than subsiding.

Instead of reading and publicizing Lenni Brenner's distortions and lies, Bob should read Yitzhak Azuz's book "Understanding the Holocaust", from which he might finally learn and inwardly accept how cruel and evil Allied policy towards Europe's Jews was during those fateful years.

bob said...

I'm sorry about slow moderation here and my lack of comment. I just haven't had time to sit and type. I'm reading through all of the above now, and here are some comments, some of which relate to points that you guys have moved on from.

1. This absolutely isn't the main issue at hand here, but I meant to comment on the idea that the US created al-Qaeda. That simply isn't true. They may have been entangled with the Mujahadeen and possibly with the MAK, one of al-Qaeda's predecessors, but the idea they actually created al-Qaeda is just foolish. And I also disagree with the Tory Kissingerite Julian Lewis about the actually 70,000 "moderate rebels", as I wrote here: http://brockley.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/what-cameron-said-about-70000-moderate.html

2. Re Boffy on Naz Shah:
She engaged in "meaningful self-scrutiny and gracious apology", you say. So did, Bukharin and others in the Moscow show trials. I've looked at what she said in those social media posts, and especially given that the one with the map was not even intended to be taken seriously, I'm still trying to see exactly what was explicitly anti-Semitic, as opposed to anti-Israel in them.
I don't think Shah's apology bears any resemblance to a show trial. We know from Bradford Synagogue and from Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner that she had changed in her attitudes since becoming an MP. I think it's very plausible that she looked back on what she said in the heat of the 2014 Gaza conflict and squirmed. However, she didn't actually say much in those posts. First, it was almost all things she shared rather than said herself. The map thing was basically a bad joke. It has added offensiveness because, well, we know that "solutions" to Jewish questions have something of a history, and that being "transported" isn't something Jews would like us to laugh about.

She also didn't actually comment on Hitler either. She shared a picture of Martin Luther King - actually, ironically, if you look closely at it, it comes from a right-wing American Twitter account @iamtheteaparty (see http://www.thejc.com/files/imagecache/body_portrait/NazShahMartinLutherKing1.jpg and https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/82/3c/b1/823cb1207b1d606e889852a2a8a796bc.jpg ) and added her own comment, the hashtag #ApartheidIsrael. In my view, this isn't antisemitic. (I don't think calling Israel an apartheid state is antisemitic.) But it is implying a similarity between Israel and Hitler, which is felt as offensive by most Jews because, well, Hitler killed lots of Jews.

The worse thing she shared, though, is the article that talks about the Zionists "grooming" people for high office on a global scale and exploiting "pogrom guilt" to get a state. Not explicitly antisemitic perhaps, but drawing on several antisemitic tropes.

[cont.]

bob said...

3. On the free speech issue and causing offence, and the Mo'Toons analogy:
Yes, if free speech means anything it is the free speech of your enemies and the right to cause offence. However, I don't think that arguing that "saying X is offensive/antisemitic" necessarily means that you follow up with "saying x should be banned". Anyone who wants to censor or arrest someone for saying what Ken said or sharing what Shah shared is totally wrong - and I doubt many people would think that. Ken's free speech is not in doubt: he has been called on to dozens of media platforms now to talk about Hitler. This is emphatically not a free speech issue.

Instead, the questions about these two individuals specifically are (a) should they apologise, and (b) should it affect their status in the Labour party. Personally, I think they should both apologise for causing offence (she has; I believe he's just apologising for causing trouble for Labour). In her case, she obviously doesn't think now the things she shared back then, so that's that. In his case, he can't retract his historical rantings, because he clearly believes them. It's the fact that he believes such cranky nonsense and that he is totally unable to open his mouth these days without offending Jews kind of suggests to me he has no place holding office in the Labour Party. And if I were a Labour Party member I'd not feel very comfortable being in the same party as him.

bob said...

4. Re this:

The "offence" in Livingstone's fulmination was not about the hurt feelings of the Jews but about the distortion of truth. To listen to his words, one who is not much knowledgeable about history would come away with the clear understanding that there was a meeting of minds between the Nazis and the Zionists. This suggests that Jews enjoyed Hitler's sympathy for their plight, that he was a benefactor for Zionists. Livingstone's formulation did not try to exonerate Hitler's crimes but rather the contrary: to tar, taint, smear, besmirch Zionist Jews as Hitler's acolytes. He used Hitler's evil reputation in order to create an alliance between that evil and Zionism, to make the point that Zionists were unscrupulous agents of .. who? What, exactly?

This is another ploy to present the history of Israel's creation as associating and collaborating with pure evil.

When you ignore Livingstone's intent you do violence to his message which he keeps claiming is the truth, and does not regret.


I more or less agree with the first two paragraphs there. My uncertainty is about the last point, which I've put in bold, the one about intent. I don't think it's helpful to talk about ploys and intents. To me what matter is the effect of what he said, which is to distort the truth, and to suggest that Zionism is basically Nazi. We can examine Ken's pattern of statements and actions over time and conclude that this was his intent - but I don't think we need to in order to condemn it.

bob said...

5. On the Stern gang etc:
I think there's a world of difference between on one hand saying "Hitler supported the Zionists" and on the other pointing out some of the reactionary nature of some dimensions of Zionism. Hitler was reactionary, but not all reactionaries are Hitler. So, yes, the Stern Gang was generically fascist or very close to it, and yes there were one or two instances of some Nazis working with some Zionists - but the Stern Gang were far from mainstream Zionists at the time; the Nazis understood there to be several strains of Zionism and deliberately cultivated some at the expense of others; Jabotinsky was one of the fiercest opponents of the Ha'avara Agreement; a Revisionist Zionist murdered Haim Arlosoroff for his involvement in it. It's perfectly legitimate to raise these reactionary dimensions of Zionism, but to interpret them, as Ken insists on doing, as "Hitler supported Zionism" is totally illegitimate.

bob said...

Addendum to (2) above:
I forgot to say: there was one Naz Shah comment which actually mentioned Jews. Actually it wasn't Jews but "the Jews", when she said "The Jews are rallying" to an online poll about Israel. This seems to me to be antisemitic.

bob said...

6. I just got to this, which closely relates to (5) above:

But, surely the point here is not about did Hitler/Nazis actively support Zionism, or did they just use this agreement for their short term benefit, but is whether it is true that the Nazis and Zionists did make such agreements, as Livingstone stated, and as Mann and others have suggested is historically untrue and beyond the pale even referring to?

This would be right if Livingstone had simply said that there were agreements between Hitler (or, more accurately, the Nazi government, as it seems Hitler was ambivalent about it) and some parts of the Zionist movement. But Ken did actually say - and repeat and repeat - that "Hitler supported Zionism". This is precisely what made his position offensive, and gave good cause to Mann to in turn lose it in response. It may be the outrage was theatrics on Mann's part, and it may be it was part of an anti-Corbyn agenda, but it was also fuelled by a basic (and I'm sure in Mann's case genuine) aversion to using the Holocaust against the Jews.

bob said...

7. My final point:

RE I also see that on the same basis, of trying to close down debate other than on those terms, even David Feldman, from the Pear's Institute for the Study of Ant-Semitism, who has been appointed alongside Sham Chakrobarty to head up the report into racism and anti-semitism is not Zionist enough. He is now apparently being attacked himself as potentially anti-semitic for having even suggested that some of the accusations made were a bit flimsy, and politically motivated, and that it is not necessarily anti-semitic to draw parallels between the actions of the Israeli State and other oppressive states, including the Nazis.

I disagree with the attacks on Feldman (particularly the allegation that he's unsuitable because he once signed the Independent Jewish Voices Statement), but is anyone saying he's "potentially antisemitic"? The serious criticisms of him (e.g. at Engage) relate to the fact that he's published a definition of antisemitism (commissioned by Mann no less) that seems to rule an awful lot out. I personally hope he'll do a good job. But criticizing him on this basis is not "shutting down debate"; it's saying a commission of inquiry needs to be headed by someone of total credibility not someone who's already taken a position on the topic at hand. It's not an exact analogy, but we wouldn't use the formula "shutting down debate" for opposing the appointment someone who's written glowingly of the South Yorkshire Police to head a commission of inquiry into Orgreave.

OK, that's me for now.

Jim Denham said...

Socialist Organiser's 1984 article on Brenner: https://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/lenni-brenners-revisionism-hysterically-and-obscenely-stupid/